Qatar defeated El Salvador 3-2 in a thrilling quarter-final to seal their place in the 2021 Gold Cup semi-finals at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, on Saturday, 24 July.
A brace by Almoez Ali and Abdulaziz Hatim’s strike saw Qatar race into a 3-0 lead before El Salvador pulled two back to give the reigning AFC Asian Cup champions a nervy final 25 minutes.
Qatar, however, held on for the win, which propels them into a semi-final against either the United States or Jamaica on Thursday.
Qatar raced off the blocks to take the lead in the second minute following a swift counter-attacking move that surprised their Central American opponents.
Hugo Perez’s men, who advanced as the Group A runners-up behind Mexico, were punished for giving away possession as Akram Afif weaved his way past the El Salvador defence before setting up Ali to score from inside the box.
El Salvador responded with Alexander Larín having a look at the goal in the fifth minute, but he failed to find the target from outside the box. Qatar oozed confidence and tightened their grip on the game in the eighth minute, with Hatim spectacularly finishing a fantastic build-up from just above the box.
Qatar, playing on an invitational basis, could have extended their lead, but Hatim, Karim Boudiaf and Afif failed to finish their opportunities.
El Salvador tried to claw their way back into the game but could not convert their chances as Qatar took a two-goal cushion into the break.
El Salvador gave Qatar another chance to get on the scoresheet after a penalty was given due to a handball inside the box in the second half. Ceren’s extended arm blocked an Almoez Ali shot, and the referee pointed to the spot following a Video Review.
Ali, the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 MVP and Golden Boot winner, made no mistake from the spot, slotting home coolly past goalkeeper Mario González to net his fourth goal of the Gold Cup.
El Salvador, however, did not throw in the towel and pulled one back in the 63rd minute courtesy of Joaquín Rivas, who found a way through the Qatar defence to score past Meshaal Barsham.
The Central Americans continued to apply pressure, and Rivas scored his second three minutes later with another well-crafted build-up.
Rivas then thought he found his crowning achievement, a hat-trick goal to tie things up. However, as he found the back of the net, the FC Tulsa attacker saw that the linesman had raised his flag and called the play offside. Qatar, however, held off El Salvador’s late surge to walk away with the win and book their place in the semi-finals.
Source: Qatar Football Association
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